Share
Pin it!
Google Plus

NCTM Political Advocacy

Moderator
Welcome to today's online chat with NCTM President Johnny Lott on NCTM's increased political advocacy efforts. For background on the topic of the chat, you can read Dr. Lott's President's Message.

Here is our first Question from:

Oakland, California

Most legislators have aides who specialize in education. They are usually interested in policy, which these days means accountability in education. They are not interested in mathematics, per se. Rarely do they have any idea what the NCTM standards are—that the standards are based on research in mathematics education, and that they are policy documents. Also that the standards represent a substantive contribution to classroom teaching. There seems to be a gulf between the aides and university spokespersons who often serve as advisers on important legislative committees, on the one hand, and NCTM representatives, who are sometimes classroom teachers. What about trying to break down those barriers?

Johnny Lott:

At the national level, NCTM has put together a soon-to-be released NCTM legislative platform. With that in place and with the next Congress, the Council is planning to have a mathematics education legislative briefing for congressional aides and others of influence at the federal level. This conference could be modeled at the state level.

Question from:
Auburn, Alabama

With more authority and influence shifting to states with No Child Left Behind, how does NCTM plan to support state-level efforts, such as committees developing state standards?

Johnny Lott:

With the NCTM Legislative Platform just approved by the Council’s Board of Directors, there will be a series of toolkits developed to be used by NCTM Affiliates at the state level. Issues are so different in each state that it appears better to develop materials and provide them so that they can be adapted to different states and different specific issues. There is really no feasible way that the Council could fiscally be actively involved in each state except through its Affiliates.

Since you are from Alabama and I was just in Montgomery at the state conference, it appears that the Affiliates there have their work cut out for them working to improve the state budget for education. If the court case that was just won by the state is upheld, that could offer some help. Good luck.

Question from:
Auburn, Alabama

How does one actually participate in this chat? I think it’s a great idea.

Johnny Lott:

Thanks for the thought. It appeared that this type of chat could help the President and Board of Directors of NCTM in answering questions from members. You can access the chat from the home page at www.nctm.org and we are sending out monthly e-mailings to members who might be interested based on the latest President’s message in the NCTM News Bulletin.

Question from:
El Centro, California

Could you describe the duties and makeup of NCTM’s legislative committee?

Johnny Lott:

NCTM really does not have a legislative committee as such. We hire a consultant in Washington to help keep us apprised of issues of interest in Congress.

There was a subcommittee of the Board of Directors that worked with our legislative consultant and the Director of Communications at NCTM to put draft a legislative platform. That was an ad hoc group that only met once. The idea is that a similar ad hoc group may be appointed every year to reconsider the platform and any changes.

Question from:
El Centro, California

Could you briefly describe what parts of the NCLB’s legislation NCTM participated in the writing of?

Johnny Lott;

NCTM did not write any of the No Child Left Behind Act. We have participated in the Mathematics Education Summit meetings that have been sponsored by the Department of Education. Executive Director Jim Rubillo has been on the planning council for those meetings.

The Council is on record in the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM 2000) advocating a quality mathematics education for every child and is also on record in advocating for highly qualified teachers of mathematics in the classroom. Because these two items are behind the NCLB Act, I have been on record as supporting the tenets of the bill. It disturbs most of us when we see how the implementation phases of NCLB have begun to be carried out. That is one of the reasons for developing a legislative platform for NCTM.

Question from:
El Centro, California
Who is NCTM’s lobbyist in Washington?

Johnny Lott:

NCTM legislative consultant in Washington is Ellin Nolan, of Washington Partners. She has been working with the Council for several years now. Note that she is not NCTM’s “lobbyist;” rather she is a consultant who provides information on bills and issues of interest. As a nonprofit organization, NCTM is limited in what can be done in the way of lobbying. We can and do provide information; that is legally very different from lobbying.

Question from:
Columbia, South Carolina

Are we letting governors and key legislators know how many members we have altogether and how many we have in their state?

Johnny Lott:

Every time that we target a member of Congress for a visit, we tie mathematics education issues to issues in their state. However, most of the targeted members are members of ranking committees considering legislation of interest to us. We do not regularly send out this type of information to all members of Congress because in most cases it would be of little or no interest to them.

Because we have between 90,000 and 100,000 members, including institutional members, out of the approximately 2 million teachers of mathematics in the United States alone, the numbers nationwide for the organization are impressive but are less so in a given state. This type of information is far more profitably used if state Affiliates approach the legislators with both Affiliate numbers and NCTM numbers. It also ties the contact more directly to the constituents or voters.

Question from:
Columbia, South Carolina

Are we letting politicians and those in chambers of commerce know the extent of the regional meetings that we have? Are we doing the same with national meetings?

Johnny Lott:
With every regional and national meeting, there is a publicity committee that works to get the message to the local politicians and chambers of commerce. The success of this effort is largely dependent on the publicity committee. The communications staff at NCTM headquarters in Reston helps to set up interviews for the meetings. We have had everything from almost no publicity to having a TV camera in a classroom for an hour while I taught a class. Try being on a skateboard to draw a sine or cosine curve with a student pushing you and being filmed at the same time. It made great press for one regional. Again, much of this effort lies in the hands of the Affiliates helping with the meeting. At the annual meetings, there is typically a major politician or educator in the area who is at the opening.

We are probably less successful with the chamber of commerce. They typically help with the hospitality efforts at the meetings but haven’t done much beyond that effort.

Question from:
Columbia, South Carolina

Do we let state departments of education, state superintendents, and key legislators know what we have to offer regarding standards, evaluation and assessment, etc. in our publications?

Johnny Lott:

We certainly make every effort to reach key national legislators and work closely on different projects with NCSM and ASSM to reach departments of education. Members of those organizations are closely aligned with NCTM and we have a very high percentage of joint membership with those organizations. Because of the continually changing face of state legislators and state superintendents, contact is probably more profitably done through affiliates.

Right now a proposal to NSF has been jointly submitted by ASSM and NCTM to compare state standards on a grade-by-grade basis. Keep your fingers crossed for its being funded.

Question from:
Auburn, Alabama

What is NCTM doing to get input from the general public? In my view, there is a disconnect between us “insiders” and others interested in our field. While a legislative committee may be difficult, are there other mechanisms that might be used?

Johnny Lott:

NCTM commissioned a stakeholders audit conducted by Hill and Knowlton to help us understand some of the issues that arise in different arenas and how NCTM is viewed by various audiences. The audit surveyed legislators and legislative staff, news media, NCTM members, third-party influencers, and the NCTM Board and leadership. There are probably other areas where people have concerns. That is the reason that my email address has been widely distributed across the country. Perhaps the easiest way to express issues is to let the staff in Reston know. All messages that come to the Council that need Board input are passed on.

Suggestions?

Question from:
Palmdale, California

I think the biggest obstacle is money. Most teachers are (maybe rightfully so) concerned about wages and benefits, not issues. I feel that local unions needed to be equally concerned with class size, technology, discipline, etc. However, I am in the minority.
Local, state, and national unions do not effectively use the clout they have.

Johnny Lott:

While it is true that money is a major issue for retaining teachers and improving quality in the classroom, it is far from the only issue. Right now as much as one-half of the new teachers entering the workforce leave the classroom in the first five years of teaching. These statistics are from the Department of Education. Now on a local school level, we can do things without money to help retain these teachers. It does take an effort on the part of experienced teachers. By mentoring the new teachers, helping them with duties as they are learning how to teach, and by giving them far better school assignments and teaching assignments, we can help them survive to become “experienced” teachers with a teaching career shelf life of more than five years.

At the same time, money issues cannot be ignored. Teachers cannot continue to be underpaid. Changing this takes a local effort far more than a national effort. Salaries and benefits are controlled by local politicians. When there are so many states in financial distress, it is even more distressing to see budgets being balanced on the backs of powerless students. Invite politicians to schools and let them see on a regular basis (1) what teachers and students are doing and (2) have them talk to new teachers to learn of the weight of student loans, minimal salaries, and sometimes dire working and living conditions as a result of the personal financial distress.

Question from:
Vancouver, Washington

We raise awareness with positive publicity. Through scholarships, math competitions, and easy-to-obtain professional development opportunities for our most motivated and brightest teachers to teach other teachers. Then we allow the media to tell our story. This becomes a win-win, and money isn’t wasted on advertising or other non-educational things. Remember we are here for the children!!!

Johnny Lott:

At one point in my career, I thought that mathematics education was above politics and advertising hype. As I have worked these past two years and traveled across the United States and Canada visiting schools and talking to teachers and have read the multitude of stories about mathematics education and schools that are far less than positive, I’m now convinced that we cannot be above it at all. Consider the continued rise in scores on NAEP that made back pages of newspapers in the past week. For a 14-year period, NAEP scores have risen in mathematics at some pretty dramatic levels. At the same time reading scores are basically flat. What made the headlines? Check out your local papers to see how it was handled.

Though NCTM sends out regular news releases with positive stories for the press, those are rarely picked up and widely distributed nationally. If you see education articles, they are on the local levels. This is the time for my spiel for each and every one of you to develop a relationship with a local reporter. You need to have them in your classrooms showing them what is going on at that level. It will help provide you with more support at a local level.

For Affiliates, NCTM has a Media and Communications Guide that can provide you help in getting started with reporters and media. Check with your Affiliate presidents to see what is being done in this area at that level.

Question from:
Gallup, New Mexico

Do higher standards for teachers result in better education for students, and what is a higher standard? My bent is the “higher standards” eliminate some well-qualified people—lawyers, accountants etc.

Johnny Lott:

There is evidence that teachers who have more mathematics in their background typically have students who score better on tests. However, and this is a big however, there is little evidence that those with more mathematics in their backgrounds and little in the way of pedagogy have the same success.

I understand your bent about “higher standards,” but I think that you should consider that while higher standards are necessary for better teachers, that alone is not sufficient. In the same way that more mathematics may be necessary for better student performance, it is not sufficient to guarantee it. I contend (and you may disagree) that the better teachers are going to be those who have more and different strategies for teaching and who also have a knowledge of cognition or learning theories of how students learn in addition to the content knowledge are going to be the better teachers. I think that those are the people who have had better results in the research studies.

In the same way that well-qualified people cannot be doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. without background in those fields, “well-qualified” people should not be allowed to be teachers unless they are willing to be certified as teachers and have the prerequisite knowledge, experiences, and internships to do it.

Question from:
Auburn, Alabama

One thought is that NCTM have an advisory board of leading persons from business, industry, government (NSF, ED), local governments, parental groups, mathematicians, etc. that would meet perhaps one or two times per year, just to react to what the Council is doing. Clearly there are people who really care about our field and just might be willing to lend a hand in shaping our public perception. (They might also end up being good third-party advocates.)

Johnny Lott:

Thanks for this suggestion. Forming an outside “business” advisory board is currently being considered. At the October Board meeting, representatives of Toyota ,which sponsors the Toyota TIME awards with the Council, made a presentation to the Board. After that, the Board began preliminary discussions of how a group similar to what you described could be used by the Council. One thing that we do not want to do is to have an advisory board and then give them nothing to do. This will have more discussion in coming meetings.

Again, thanks for the suggestion.

Vancouver, Washington

Personally, I think that we are shoving so much down their throats that we have lost sight of the fact that math is fun. There is so much out there that is creative and full of art. Shouldn’t doing math be as much fun as trying to find the best value when shopping? My students get more out of a lesson when we take time to talk about the math. But, with all the requirements in a year we have very little time to actually talk math.

Johnny Lott:

I heard a very eloquent elementary teacher at the NCTM Charleston Regional meeting argue that the worst thing that a teacher could do was to talk about math being fun. This teacher contended that mathematics was so important that one who continually talked about fun was partly destroying the importance. I don’t know if I agree with all of the teacher’s comments, but I am sure that what is important is for students to sense and know that their teachers love what they teach and love having the students learn it. That may be different from fun though I’m not sure that “fun” won’t come through in the process.

With your shopping example, some would contend that finding the best value when shopping is not fun at all because shopping is no fun at all.

With all the requirements, I think that there is very little time that we cannot talk math rather than having very little time to talk math. Talking can take many forms. Doing math history topics when working with different algorithms is one example. I think that one can do great “math talk” while teaching some pretty traditional concepts.

Question from:
Triangle, Virginia

How do other organizations of NCTM’s type approach Department of Education policies?

Johnny Lott:

The approaches taken certainly vary by organizations.

NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) is preparing for the Summit on Science Education that is now planned for March as I understand it. It was originally scheduled for this fall. There has been some major discussion over the types of research that has been used and promoted by the Department of Education on reading. Not all the organizations agree with that research at all. Recent flat NAEP scores (if they are an indicator of current policy) are not a positive indicator of those policies.

Question from:
Moscow, Idaho

What types of things has NCTM advocated for in Washington?

Johnny Lott:

NCTM has worked for more funding of education and research regularly in the past. In addition, it worked (maybe unsuccessfully) to keep the material that had been available through the ERIC accessible at least in archival form. It is not clear that we won that battle.

Question from:
Pullman, Washington

Does NCTM participate with other organizations to promote legislation in Washington?

Johnny Lott:

NCTM, as an organization, its president and executive director, regularly participate in the Council of Scientific Society Presidents (CSSP) meetings in Washington and have made visits on the Hill as a part of that effort. This group is admittedly more interested in research in pure sciences than in mathematics education, but there is a group of mathematics and science educators who work inside CSSP. I am currently a candidate for the Board of that group. It is headed by Martin Apple in Washington, D.C.

Question from:
Des Moines, Iowa

How can NCTM Affiliates help in working with educational policies?


Johnny Lott:

Affiliates can help by working at the local level on both state and national politicians and on state boards of education. These people have to know what you are thinking. NCTM is a relatively small organization and one of 25,000 nonprofit organizations in the Washington, D.C. area. The best way to change educational policies is to continue work through local people.

Question from:
Trinidad, Colorado

Is there a good place to find information about different states and data about them for legislative issues?

Johnny Lott:

One of the single best places is the Council of Chief State School Officers at www.ccsso.org. The staff at CCSSO regularly collects state data. The other good source is through http://nces.ed.gov/. The National Council for Educational Statistics is a great place for the type of data requested.

Question from:
Kansas City, Kansas

I support the Council’s new direction to be more active in advocacy. And I acknowledge that in time it is something that should benefit all its members as a group and ultimately education. However, when it comes to asking individual teachers to act on their own, write letters to their members of Congress, and make phone calls, I think it’s a lot to ask. Most of us have a hard enough time keeping up the preparing for the next class and doing what's expected of us from day to day. Isn’t there a way you can be effective without asking so much from the members?

Johnny Lott:

From visits to Capitol Hill and from talking with both legislative aides and to NCTM legislative consultant, it is clear that letters from members with a personal tone are far more effective than those that come from an organization. NCTM will continue to send letters and make calls, but know that those that are most effective are those that come from voters and not from an organization.

Affiliates can help by organizing message trees when there are letters to be written. This was used very effectively in some states in the past. Also, emails are very effective—maybe more so than letters.

Question from:
Visalia, California

I’m curious to hear what your vision for the Council is in 5-10 years. Do you think this new direction toward advocacy means that NCTM will eventually become a recognized authority for its views on math education? Will the advocacy make NCTM an even larger target and put it in the position of having to fend off more criticism?

Johnny Lott:

To the first question, the vision of NCTM is to be the recognized authority on mathematics education. To me it is an authority already. Unfortunately, not all have recognized it as such. The vision is to have it recognized for what it already does.

To answer the second question, the answer is yes. NCTM will probably be a bigger target as it is more widely recognized. That goes with the territory. If the Council is the authority, there are more who will criticize the organization. What we have to be much more careful of is to make sure that we can back up what the Council promotes mathematically.

Question from:
Lexington, Kentucky

As a classroom teacher, how can I offer my services to NCTM’s advocacy efforts?

Johnny Lott:

First, be active in your local affiliate and volunteer for NCTM committees by sending your name and information about how you would like to be involved using the committee volunteer request at www.nctm.org.

Second, get to know your local reporters and invite them to see what you and the students do in your classroom.

Finally, make sure that your legislators at all levels know some mathematics teachers whom they can trust and go to for information on a local level.

Thank you for asking.

Question from:
Amarillo, Texas

On the Legislative Platform under Assessment it says that NCTM "Supports the use of testing only to improve student learning." Does that speak against the use of large-scale testing such as the NAEP?

Johnny Lott:

The platform does not speak against the use of large-scale testing such as NAEP. Few people believe that we should not test. The biggest problem is with the misuse of results. Large-scale tests of the type mentioned should never be used to identify students. They can be used to compare results among states and across the nation. They can be used to identify trends in mathematics education over time.

They should not be used as high-stakes assessments that keep students out of mathematics in the future.

Question from:
Richmond, Virginia

More is being written about how NCLB policies are taking school away from students. From students who are being prevented from pursuing certain careers to legal immigrants being denied public education, the larger policies seem to be hurting those most in need. Is there a way for NCTM to be politically active toward addressing these concerns?

Johnny Lott:

Currently, we are looking at some of the implementation policies being enacted under NCLB. Those are hard to deal with on a national level. Many are state-implemented interpretations of NCLB. Those are almost impossible for a single organization to address. They may have to be addressed locally.

It is very clear that all states are not implementing policies in the same manner at this time.

Question from:
Tallahassee, Florida

As a national organization, does NCTM sees itself in a position to get grassroots support for issues? Other groups seem to do a much better job of mobilizing, in a real and emotional way, a small segment of the public to their benefit. Does NCTM have plans to help at this level?

Johnny Lott:

Grassroots efforts typically do not spring from national organizations but from individuals or in the case of mathematics education—Affiliates. An example is seen in the resolutions at the Delegate Assembly of NCTM. Those resolutions typically start with individuals or Affiliates. Perhaps one method of beginning grassroots efforts is to consider how Affiliates can be more involved in promoting important issues. The organization can plant the seeds; the nurturing of grass roots must come from members.

I do note that many of the recent grassroots efforts have been the result of having parents feel that their students are being threatened in some way. Our most effective spokespeople are teachers from their classrooms and with parents. There is where our messages must make inroads.

Question from:
Potosi, Missouri

What can I do to help?

Johnny Lott:

Get involved in an NCTM Affiliate, volunteer there and at the national level as soon as you have a bit of experience. We need you.

Get to know reporters and legislators.

Question from:
Hobart, Oklahoma

Why did we wait so long?

Johnny Lott:

NCTM is a professional organization and as such tried to stay above the fray in promoting mathematics education. Current events have caused this stance to be rethought. An organization that represents 90,000-100,000 members has to think long and hard about the voice that it is to have. We need to represent our members, and it is not always clear how they want to be represented.

Location Unknown

“What we have to be much more careful of is to make sure that we can back up what the Council promotes mathematically.”

What does this mean?

Johnny Lott:

One valid criticism is that we have not always in the past had hard evidence to substantiate rhetoric. We must make sure that we have that evidence.

Question from:
Santa Fe, New Mexico

What’s next for the Council?

Johnny Lott:

The goal is to make the Council an indispensable part of each mathematics teacher’s world. Continuing to develop an online presence, producing coordinated and comprehensive professional development conferences, and producing quality publications are a part of that “what’s next.” A personal goal is to continue to increase membership. Bigger is better in the political arena.

Moderator:

Thank you all for your participation in today’s chat. A full transcript of the chat will be posted on the NCTM Web site with the next two days.

Good evening.

Johnny Lott:

As NCTM works toward more political advocacy for mathematics education, each of us has the responsibility to make sure that there is no politician or reporter who does not know the names of good mathematics teachers. As you sign off tonight, think about the ways you can contact your local legislators and reporters to give them your names and contact information. Thank you much for participating tonight.

Johnny

Editor's Note: NCTM moderators retain editorial control over online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts. The moderator and host may decline to answer questions.

Chat Transcripts-November 17, 2003, 7:00 p.m. EDTChat Transcripts-November 17, 2003, 7:00 p.m. EDTChat Transcripts-November 17, 2003, 7:00 p.m. EDTChat Transcripts-November 17, 2003, 7:00 p.m. EDT

Your feedback is important! Comments or concerns regarding the content of this page may be sent to nctm@nctm.org. Thank you.